Thailand’s military spending spree

Thailand Eyes New Korea Fighter Jets as Cabinet approves purchase of eight T-50 advanced planes.

Social media has taken up arms the past week over repeated stories of flamboyant military spending, first on a shiny new set of fighter jets and then on a ski trip to Japan.

Against the backdrop of a quickly declining economy, the Ministry of Defence has announced intentions to procure eight fighter jets from South Korea that will cost 8.8 billion baht.

The fighter jet shopping spree comes only a month after the Ministry of Defence announced the purchasing of tanks worth 2.3 million baht from China. Earlier this year, the junta also approved a plan to spend nearly 40 billion baht on tanks and submarines.

The junta maintains new weaponry is vital to the defence of the nation, although it is not clear who the future enemy may be. However, the necessity of a naval ski trip to Japan whose details were leaked last week is even more questionable.

On the weekend, anti-corruption group Watchdog ACT revealed the details of a trip to Japan taken by a navy college cohort which was sanctioned by the Naval Education Department. A significant portion of the itinerary appears to bear no relevance to the trip’s formal purpose of observing state work in a foreign country.

Highlights of the trip included visits to the Fujiten Snow Resort, the Asahi Beer Factory, the Sapporo Beer Factory and shopping at Shinsaibashi-Suji. Attendees were given an allowance of 2,100 baht a day.

Social media has reacted with outrage, with a Facebook post by Watchdog ACT detailing the trip’s itinerary shared already by over 1,400 people. Last year, Watchdog ACT released details of a similar military college field trip to Europe.

In another instance of centralisation of power over finances, the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly has passed legislation appointing the King as the highest authority over royal assets.

Previously, the board of directors that managed crown assets answered to the finance minister. The reforms mark the first amendment to laws pertaining to the management of crown assets since 1948.

The king’s formal powers continue to grow, with a law in May this year having transferred five agencies that manage palace affairs from the jurisdiction of the state to the monarchy. – Prachatai

The Navy’s ski trip to Japan (Photo from Watchdog ACT)

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